Guest Post: Macondo History Before The Blowout

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by the CEOoftheSOFA

Macondo History Before the Blowout


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cossack55's picture

"My opinion on the cause differs from the views of the popular press".  This statement speaks very highly of you, however, it does condemn you to reality.

Broken_Trades's picture

What were the results of the initial pressure test?  These things aren't exactly open to interpretation...

If they were gaining in the mud tanks WTF didn't anyone do anything?  Even the driller should know enough to shut in the well without the Co Man giving him to OK.

If it's true it sounds like a failure on every level.  They have gas detectors over the mud tanks.  If they were getting gas in the returns, and taking gains - Should they not have shut in the well immediately?  It's hard to believe that a driller would sit around and wait 40 minutes for the OK while the return line is frothing with gas.

this whole thing sounds fishy.  Possible they were having one of the many safety meetings and no one was on the drill floor??  Stuck pipe and kicks seem to happen a lot around 7 and 7.

thanks for posting up some information on what actually happened, that actually makes sense.


Fish Gone Bad's picture

Whew!  Its almost like reading pornography written for oil wells.  Bad cementer, blow out preventer, high pressure, and then the "happy" ending.

Careless Whisper's picture

"shortcuts" sounds so non-criminally negligent.

Dburn's picture

Simple "Human Error" which is usually blown up to incompetance, pressure from management and a variety of other cuases that led to the human error is the mother of all plantiff claims in a lawsuit. That is the one that Lawyers should be advising their clients that "if you keep the company, it will be a miracle. Further we should bring in the top rate criminal attorneys from around the country and some of the best local attornies as we all know Loisana law is some really weird shit, I mean different. I'm not saying you are going to jail. I doubt it ( temp releif) but I honestly don't know (massive fear) . I think we should have all our bases cover". Deal Closed 50 Million dollar referral done. Works every time.

If the above is true and with two tropical storms bearing down, I would color this company gone.

Dburn's picture

Simple "Human Error" which is usually blown up to incompetance, pressure from management and a variety of other cuases that led to the human error is the mother of all plantiff claims in a lawsuit. That is the one that Lawyers should be advising their clients that "if you keep the company, it will be a miracle. Further we should bring in the top rate criminal attorneys from around the country and some of the best local attorneys as we all know Louisiana law is some really weird shit, I mean different. I'm not saying you are going to jail. I doubt it ( temp relief) but I honestly don't know (massive fear) . I think we should have all our bases covered". Deal Closed! 50 Million dollar referral done. Works every time.

If the above is true and with two tropical storms bearing down, I would color this company gone.

MsCreant's picture

Interesting read CEO. Thanks for taking the time to put this together. I will be interested to see Augustus and others comment.

Cursive's picture


Haven't read it yet, but CEO had a similar take to Augustus in previous posts by GW.  Curious to read this knowing some of CEO's earlier skepticism.

Augustus's picture

I have no argument with this scenario.  If you take the time to look at the information provided by BP to the Congressional hearing you can see that the mud returns were increasing over what they pumped down the hole.  The kick was evident for at least several hours.

I'm not sure that the decision to run the tapered casing string was a particularly bad one.  I would want to wait to read the BP engineers thoughts on that.  While running another liner string could have been better in this case, there may be more to it than I understand.  I somewhat suspect it involves a better method of producing the well, but I don't know for sure.

The fact that they encountered weak formations going down the hole is not particularly significant.  It is normal to have to run several intermediate casing strings and to have some formation kicks.  That is just what drillers have been dealing with for 100 years.  If you check the casing plan of what was run into the hole you can see that there are quite a few casing sets.  When drilling you don't want to have to do that just for fun.  They will eventually run casing in the hole, no problem with that, however all of the intermediate strings slow the project and leave less hole diameter available for drilling.  Eventually they can get tight holed out and game over before they reach the target.  In any event they solved those problems in every case but the last one.

One point I have not seen addressed anywhere was the mud weight vs. the actual formation pressure.  The mud weight was about 14,000 psi when they drilled the bottom.  However they logged the formation pressure of the pay zone at about 12,500 psi.   That much overbalance could really have created a problem and a loss of fluid to the formation.  It seems that they really should have done the bottoms up circulation of the mud before the cement job.  That establishes with more certainty the strength of the formation and gets any gas bubble out of the mud.  Gas will be in the cuttings if not directly in the mud.  It rises, gets released, and expands, displacing the mud and the weight controlling the bottom flow.

I did not calculate the cement volumes necessary for the fill up on the backside of the 7".  I have read one report on it and it seems that the volume was about 60% excess which is more than standard and should have done the job.  Unless it went into the pay zone and not up the back side of the 7".  It is always possible that it became gassy so that it had very slight channels in it.  I don't believe a CBL log would show that. 

The best and most certain way to check the cement job is the way they did it.  They just did not read the gauges properly or understand what they were showing them.  As to the arguments about the quality of the cement job, I'm a little suspect on how that occured.  I believe that the Transocean people and the BP people all testified that they were in agreement that the job was OK.

One other thought experiment that may help some people who are unfamiliar with O&G production.  The stuff is found in what you would consider solid rock.  Think of it as being a concrete block that you can see is porus and will pass water through it with some pressure.  It is not in pools or caves underground.  Generally the rocks of the productive formations are sandstone with modest cementing of the grains or from limestone that had the porosity developed by leaching.  These rocks are not particularly the original source of the oil and gas but are where it has been captured and trapped.


Rusty Shorts's picture

 - ah yeah, can't wait to hear what Augustus has to say, he owes me some doughnut holes.


Who died?

Augustus's picture

I don't recall what the doughnut holes were about.  If you can refresh my memory or describe the game, I'll check the availability of the holes.


Rusty Shorts's picture
by Rusty Shorts
on Tue, 06/22/2010 - 12:21

Next up in the ultradeep water oil is the massive "FPSO Kwame Nkrumah", a brand new and much larger rig than the Deepwater Horizon.


"West Tano jubilee field, Ghana, West Africa."


The Jubilee Field is the name given the oil field of Ghana, where first commercial oil is expected in the last quarter of this year. The Jubilee Field Unit is situated in Deepwater Tano (DT) and West Cape Three Points (WCTP) blocks, approximately 60km offshore Ghana and 130km west southwest of the port city of Takoradi.


Tullow Oil operated the Deepwater Tano block, where it held 49.95% interest, with Kosmos and Anadarko holding 18% interest each. Sabre Oil & Gas held 4.05%, whilst GNPC had a 10% carried interest. However, GNPC exercised its option of taking up additional paying interest following a discovery, and increased its stake to 15%.

On the other hand, Kosmos Energy was the Operator of the WCTP block, in which it held 30.875% interest, just like Anadarko Petroleum, while Tullow Oil held 22.896% interest. The other partners in that field were the EO Group, which held 3.5%, Sabre Oil & Gas, 1.854% and GNPC having a carried interest of 10%. Here again, GNPC took up additional interest of 2.5%, to increase its stake to 12.5%.


 - hmm, Tullow Oil and Kosmos Energy...I bet that BP owns both of these outfits.


The Brits have landed in Takoradi, Ghana.



by Augustus
on Tue, 06/22/2010 - 13:37

- hmm, Tullow Oil and Kosmos Energy...I bet that BP owns both of these outfits.


And the amount that you would offer for the wager is ? ? ? ?

Before you announce the number of donut holes you would actually put at risk, you may want to look at the shareholding for the LSE listed Tullow.



by Rusty Shorts
on Mon, 07/05/2010 - 22:40

How many doughnut holes Augustus?


Tullow Oil

 LONDON, March 2 (Reuters) - Shares in London-based explorer Tullow Oil (TLW.L) jumped 3 percent on rumours that oil major BP Plc (BP.L) was planning a 15 pounds/share bid, though BP's Chief Executive played down talk of acquisitions. Dealers said the rumours circulated through the day, and Tullow shares, which had been trading up 0.2 percent, jumped 3 percent after the rumours were reported on a news agency.


BP and Tullow declined comment, but when asked about takeovers on a conference call with analysts, BP CEO Tony Hayward said if BP was to make acquisitions it was likely to be of oil fields rather than companies.


Kosmos Energy

BP could outbid Exxon Mobil for Kosmos Energy's Ghanaian oil field.

Exxon Mobil's bid for $4bn (£2.4bn) of prize oil fields in West Africa appeared under threat of competition last night, following reports that BP could put in a higher offer with Ghana National Petroleum Corp.

BP may now have hired Goldman Sachs to look into making a counter bid for the field, according to a report by Bloomberg News.

Augustus's picture

IF BP did presently own the field or the companies who have made the find,

there would NOT be speculation about a takeover or buyout of the field or the companies by BP. 

It is not customary to negotiate to buy something that is already owned.

If you want to believe that BP does own the companies or the field, please explain when you believe they acquired the interests.

BobPaulson's picture

Check the records of accidents and fatalities at site for all the majors. BP has by FAR the worst record. In fact, you will find that they account for a hugely disproportionate fraction of the worker killing screw ups. This is fairly well known but nobody seems to give a ****. 

Broken_Trades's picture

Just something to add to this -


Some companies appear to have a far worse safety record than others, mainly because they actualyl follow safety and reporting standards, and are actually trying to record all incidents because they want a real 'step change' in safety.


A lot of smaller operators

a.) dont have detailed repoting

b.) dont care

c.) under report incidents to look good

d.) operate in countries where locals get hurt all the time and its 'normal' so not recorded.


ie - Canada has one of the highest incident rates in the world for most companies.  This is because were honest, not because we are unsafe.  We are far safer in Canada than many other countries I have worked in.


Not saying thats the reason, but a grain of salt to the 'BP is satan' argument.

BobPaulson's picture

Point taken. How about just comparing the accidents, injuries and fatalities in Alberta? 

idle muesli's picture

Sorry, this doesn't apply to violations caught and fines imposed by the government.  And in this regard, BP was in a class of its own, with 99.8% of willful egregious violations at refineries in recent years.

Pegasus Muse's picture

Thought I read on this was the BP Engineer's first job.  He was inexperienced.  True?

pan-the-ist's picture

It wasn't the BP Engineer who was the newb, it was the middle manager who was in charge at the site.  It is possible that the BP Engineer agreed with the other Engineer but couldn't express his honesty do to fear of contradicting the middle manager.

Lesson learned: had the middle manager succeeded in getting the well done a few days earlier he would have been seen as a hero and probably promoted, regardless of the shortcuts.

resipsaloquacious's picture

Interesting post. 

But, in order to apply necessary context to the author's viewpoint, perhaps a generic CV that provides some broad background would be helpful.  Before anyone gets all fired up, please note that I am in favor of anonymity, I understand why it is necessary and I am not suggesting anything more than certain information informing the reader whether the author has more than a layman's knowledge on the subject he/she is writing about.

Thanks again,


Dr. Sandi's picture

I understand why it is necessary and I am not suggesting anything more than certain information informing the reader whether the author has more than a layman's knowledge on the subject he/she is writing about.

Give me an honest reporter over an expert with a point of view any time.


Diogenes's picture

The way I read it, there was a whole series of  mistakes and shortcuts resulting in catastrophic failure. If this chain of events was broken at any point it would have prevented the disaster.

At the top was management cutting corners and demanding quick results.  Workers in this kind of corporate culture learn to adapt and do shoddy work, often in ways management never intended.

So there is plenty of blame to go around but it was management that threw the dice in a gamble that everyone lost.

Rebel's picture

Good grief . . ."All drilling engineers must be certified in well control.  An annual class must be taken, with a written 

test and a test on a rig simulator. " The last thing that is needed is another mandatory training class. Believe me, it was not that the driller did not KNOW, or was not knowledgeable, he was trying to Get 'er done. People behave based on the reward system, not the required training and test taking. BP's track record on safety is a clear indicator that they reward meeting schedule, not maintaining safety.

Augustus's picture

If you believe that the driller on this rig ignored the well kicking so he could Get 'er done, then you just possibly would believe anything.  I want to hire a man that is attentive to getting the job accomplished.  I want to put a man in control on the job who is not interested in blowing himself up, along with my equipment and his fellow workers.  There are many many hazards on and around a drilling rig.  It takes people who are aware of them to work there.  If it takes a couple of more days rig time to Git 'er Done properly, that is the way it is done.  I don't know why they overlooked the indicators of the well flowing, but they did.  It had nothing to do with get 'er done.

Rebel's picture

I am not sure what "You want" has anything to do with "what happened". 

"I want to hire a man that" . . . . What ?!? . . .unless you are involved in the industry, the type of person you would want to hire is irrelevant in regards to what is actually done.

These are the facts. Some companies have a culture of safety, and some don't. Check BP's safety record compared to the industry, and tell me safety is a priority.

NOTW777's picture

so the author finds zero repsonsibility for the fed. gov, regulators, MMS, the officials who fast tracked the well including, i believe some safety check waivers

author also concludes absolute moratorium on ALL other drilling for 6 mo s is absolutely essential.

DollarMenu's picture

When I worked in IT, every project was, from it's start, 

behind schedule and over budget.

Sad to see things seem to be so much the same universally. 

Some one on the top of the food chain pulls a date out of his ass,

and everyone below lives or dies to that date.

Cursive's picture

Thanks to CEO for compiling these facts.  I will only add that one man's "simple human error" is another man's criminal negligence.

moneymutt's picture

if your point is the regulators failed before well was ever drilled, and failed in overseeing such a risky well....I doubt you will find much disagreement...but if govt failed, that means govt was the only check we had against BP and we must fix govt as well as private companies must be more vigilant...failures are often a society failure, we all get complacent, lack vigilance and play to fast and loose. 35 highway failure in MN was due to several errors, some by original private consultant that mis-designed bridge, some due to private consultant hired to review redesign/new loads for bridge decades later, some by MN DOT and FHWA for not reveiwing evaluating these bridge types after failures of similar ones and known design deficiencies, failure in bridge inspection process...but generally, I blame it on not have a mjor bricge failure for a long time and complacency..not likely private engineer or DOT will make similar mistakes in next couple of decades...

NOTW777's picture

my point is - the author seems more agenda driven than objective.  it appears the goal was to completely absolve the gov.

Augustus's picture

There is almost nothing believeable about Wayne Madsen after the publishing date.

During the September drilling operations, the Deepwater Horizon drill penetrated a massive undersea oil deposit but BP's priorities changed when the Macondo site in the Mississippi Canyon off the coast of Louisiana was found to contain some 3-4 billion barrels of oil in an underground cavern estimated to be about the size of Mount Everest. It was as a result of another 35,000 feet well bore sank by the Deepwater Horizon at the Macondo site that the catastrophic explosion occurred on April 20.
According to the Wayne Madsen Report (WMR) sources within the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Pentagon and Interior and Energy Departments told the Obama Administration that the newly-discovered estimated 3-4 billion barrels of oil in the Gulf of Mexico would cover America's oil needs for up to eight months if there was a military attack on Iran that resulted in the bottling up of the Strait of Hormuz to oil tanker traffic, resulting in a cut-off of oil to the United States from the Persian Gulf.

The above is entirely BS.  The follow on paragraph of the 40,000 ft well in Alaska is also BS.  I don't have the exact numbers in my head but the wells are maybe something like 10,000 ft deep with a 30,000 ft horizontal leg.  And it may be that I'm not remembering very well so that it is three 10,000 ft horizontal legs.  The point is the guy has distorted the facts for sensationalism.

NOTW777's picture

you have the same emotional approach as the author.  you did not like one thing madsen says, so you dismiss it all??  so you are saying the gov did not approve the well? did not fast track it.

you declare its all BS because of something "in your head?'

Augustus's picture

Just for grins, and to help those who want more information so that they can play oil business baron,

Here are the open hole logs of the Macondo well that BP provided to the govt.  The formations are evident and the notes should get you clued in.  Corrosive Disconnect should love it.  If you have complained that "they are hiding all of the information so I cannot decide whether to go to the bathroom or go crazy" then have at it.

Crummy's picture

They were tapping a cavern the size of Mt. Everest, a cavern that was able to remain a cavern despite the fact that it was under the weight of the earth and the gulf ocean.

I might be wrong here, but that sounds special in and of itself. The internal pressure required to maintain a cavern of that size must be tremendous. The friction from that high pressure was probably what caused the explosion to begin with, let alone the shoddy Haliburton cement job.

Half-assed or no, I don't think we have the tech within a budget outside of NASA or DOD to tap something like that safely. The fire may have started far below the well head and been burning for days prior to the explosion.

If that is the case, then they probably never had any stable operating time. They had to have been having problems for days or maybe even weeks leading up to this. Word must have gotten around that something was about to go terribly wrong. I wonder if there is any evidence other than the GS sell off that someone knew something was about to go bad.

pan-the-ist's picture

I don't know about that-- it was a deep well be they've been digging them deeper for the past 10 years, besides, you'd think they would have fallen on that knife pretty fast if given the chance.

This is bumbling management trying to tell the engineers what to do to try to save a buck and get the bonus.

Augustus's picture

No.  they were not and have not "tapping a cavern the size of Mt. Everest" as there is no such thing down there.  It is all solid rock with some porosity in the grains.  It stays there because the weight of the overburden keeps it there.  The general overburden weight is about 0.8 lb per foot of depth.  That is also the general pressure that will be found in the reservoir.  There is no fire below the wellhead as that would require oxygen for combustion to occur. 

Your complete lack of understanding of the physics involved seem to have led you into the consperacy theory nonsense of high order.  Good luck in figuring it out.

Barmaher's picture

John Cota, the maritime pilot who steered the Cosco Busan into the Bay Bridge spilling 53,000 gallons of bunker fuel in Nov of 2007, lost his job and went to Federal Prison.

Meanwhile those responsible for causing the oil spill disaster of our worst nightmares will likely get bonuses.

vainamoinen's picture

I am intrigued by the BP financial collapse implications reported on other strings, etc.


People seem to think BP is an oil company. I have been led to believe that it is, in fact, an energy financing corporation and as such is primarily involved in financial instruments and investments related to energy as well as other areas of a strictly financial nature, i.e. loans to enegy companies, CDS's, etc.


If this is, in fact the case, am I correct in assuming that BP is not run by petroleum professionals but by administrators more closely akin to bankers. And if this is the case, what were/are these "bankers" telling their tech people in the field?


Barback says let's leave it all up to the professionals at BP since they have the necessary technical expertise to bring the catatrophe to a close. Does this mean lets let the BP "bankers" run the show? - and what is their relationship to the obscure "middle manager" who was the Newbie - and what was his/her role in the whole sorry tale?


I now see that the extreme secrecy surrounding this issue is financial as well as technical - BP being one of the world's largest financial entities. BP will do their utmost to enable a financial solution that is in their best interests - perhaps even regardless of the technical outcome in the GOM. Given this Barback sure as hell is gonna do all he can to prevent their bankruptcy. That's why he was placed in the White House - to front run the agenda of the financial oligarches - tourist industry or no tourist industry in the Gulf of Mexico.


Bankers running oil exploration companies? Any reason for surprise now?

blindfaith's picture


Less we all be a bit weary that the Supreme Court just ruled, in effect, that if you say, do, act, etc in any way that benefits, aids, or abets any terrorists (loosely defined), (including asking them to make peace! or asking their victims to do the same! unless specifically designated as a US representative do to so) you are NOW subject to criminal prosecution in the USA by the DOJ and Homeland Security.  They are both involved in this situation, the issue of "national security" has been mentioned and some examples of police action can be pointed at.

So where do we go from here?  Take another bite of the apple, it is just another day for us in hell.

Augustus's picture

Hayworth is trained as a geologist and had worked all over the world for BP as a geologist.

Augustus's picture

If any of you would like to read a bit of oil industry history, this web site has done a good job of putting together an overview of some important field discoveries.  Particularly take the time to read about the Spindletop field near Beaumont, Tx.  The first six wells there produced more oil than all of the rest of the world.  Oil went to 0.03 a barrell and became cheaper than water for a while.

And they have also made a good writeup of the general geology of the GoM,

GeoFizz's picture

Awesome comments Augustus!  

Would you happen to know of any accessible online overviews of Miocene geology and production in the Mississippi Canyon block area?  Much of the deepwater geology out there (on the internet) focuses more on the Wilcox to the west, which interestingly seems to contain much less methane than the Miocene formations.

Augustus's picture

I'm not involved in anything down there so I've not tried to follow the geology of it.  However, this paper from the geoExpo site might have something in it that would help you.

The trouble with finding the info is that those folks want to keep it proprietary for competitive reasons.  It is only withing the last 10 - 15 years that they have been able to run seismic on the subsalt formations.  And the eastern GoM has been taken off the leasing table so why would they spend the money on the seis.  There really is quite a bit of GoM info on the GeoExpo site.

gasmiinder's picture

This is one of the best posts I've seen on the technical aspects.  Nice effort to put real data together.  I agree with the bulk of what you have to say but not the final interpretation.  

Here's why - one of the documents from the Congressional data dump has been floating around the Houston energy community because it contains the well logs as well as wellbore diagrams, pore pressure plots, etc and has occasioned a lot of discussion of what happened.  But in my opinion the real issue has been missed.  This document is clearly a capture of a powerpoint (of course) presentation by the technical team recommending the pre-completion scenario.  This presentation shows that while a long string had been the initial plan the team believed the problems with lost-circulation and kicks ("well control events" above) showed that a liner and tie-back were necessary.

The presentation lists several reasons that is true: 1) the extra degree of safety that has been discussed repeatedly, 2) the difficulty in getting cement to a safe depth above the reservoir 3) the necessity of running a cement bond log and likely need to run remedial cement jobs if the long string approach was used.  Someone overruled that recommendation.

I agree that significant human error clearly occurred on the rig the day of the disaster.  I also agree that most of the decisions discussed are not uncommon in deepwater drilling.  However, the KEY point to keep in mind when considering these decisions is that they were all made in the context of KNOWING THE WELL HAD SIGNIFICANT CONTROL ISSUES.  The decision to continue with a long string was made in the context that modeling showed you could NOT get a good cement job.  In that context the decision was made to continue anyway, to use a centralizer approach that modeling showed WOULD NOT WORK, to accept at best ambivalent pressure test results, to skip a cement bond long that internal teams had stated would be REQUIRED if a long string was run.

BP management f*&%ed up.  They killed 11 people and destroyed many more lives because some jerk manager was smarter than everybody around him and was determined to "show how" to save money and get a well down.  That's just my opinion but it's based on years of working in the culture.  What is not just an opinion is that multiple high-risk choices were made without considering what the CUMULATIVE affect of the risk decisions were - and it was NOT just the engineer on location, these choices are made in the office.  They did clearly miss evidence that they were losing control - but the loss was due to multiple other choices. 

Also - we'll likely never know but I'd bet the reason the evidence was missed was because there were a pile of suits from Bp on the rig to make their safety award presentation; when a pile of suits is on the location the drilling manager is busy kissing their collective asses not watching the rig monitors.



sandflea's picture

Thanks for the link, Augustus. The most frustrating aspect to me is the wealth of speculation by the uninformed. This is true not only of the Macondo disaster, but also of the recent outcry over hydraulic fracturing. I've lost count of the number of articles I've seen stating the inherent dangers arising from this "new" technology, that's been the industry standard since replacing SNG completions more than 50 years ago. What has suprised me the most, however, is the dearth of true industry experts being interviewed by the media over the Macondo fiasco.